Now that autumn is in full swing, my family is craving foods made with pumpkins, apples and cranberries. I love to use fresh spices for my recipes. If the kids smell cinnamon, cloves and ginger when they come home after school, they know they’ll find their favorite Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread waiting for them. A few weeks ago, I visited the new Savory Spice Shop in Lincoln Square to restock my pantry. It was worth the trip. At a specialty store, spices and dried herbs are always fresh, and I’ve found the prices are less than what I would pay at a grocery store.
In the words Dave Trout, owner of Savory Spice Shop, his store has something for everyone, whether you are looking to enhance a family meal or make a gourmet recipe. Savory Spice Shop stocks around 400 dried herbs and spices as well as 170 hand-crafted spice blends. You can use a blend to quickly create a delicious weeknight meal (steak rubs, hamburger/chili seasonings), whip up a delicious dip for a party or give your popcorn an unexpected twist. Dave encourages people to taste before they buy. He would be happy to sell you as little as you need for a single recipe or as much as you might like to stock your kitchen. If you are a baker, you will love his selection of extracts, all of which are custom blended. The staff is helpful and friendly.
I asked Dave to recommend a few of his favorite spices. He adds California Fennel Pollen to chocolate chip cookies to give them a different flavor. To make a deeply flavored Sweet Potato Bisque, he boils the potatoes in chicken stock with Chai Spices, an aromatic blend of crystallized ginger nibs, cinnamon chips, cardamom pods, star anise and more. His soup recipe is available on their web site, or you can try my version made with Chai Spices, roasted butternut squash and coconut milk.
Chai Spice Infused Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
- 1 butternut squash, halved lengthwise, seeds removed
- 1 medium apple, peeled and cut into large chunks
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon Cinnamon (I used Saigon Cinnamon)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons Chai Spices
- ½ onion, sliced
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 1 can coconut milk (you may not need all of it)
- Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 375. Place squash, cut side up, in a 13x9 inch baking pan. Put apples in squash cavity. Sprinkle squash with brown sugar, cinnamon, salt.
Cut a 5 inch square of cheese cloth. Place Chai Spices in the center of cloth and tie closed to form a small bag. I used a piece of cheese cloth to tie it; you could also use kitchen twine. Put the spice bag on bottom of pan next to squash. Scatter onions around the squash. Pour chicken broth over onions and spices. Cover pan with a piece of heavy duty foil. Bake for about 90 minutes until squash is fork tender. Let cool.
Remove Chai Spices. Scoop squash out of skins and place in a medium pot. Pour in chicken broth, onion, apples. Puree with a stick blender. Bring to a simmer. Add one cup of coconut milk, then season with salt and pepper to taste. Thin with additional coconut milk if desired. Refrigerate leftovers.
Note: You could use whole milk in place of coconut milk.